cover image Changling


Catherine Arnold, Catharine Arnold. Trafalgar Square Publishing, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-340-40542-0

Hero Abrahams, the improbably named protagonist of this addictive novel about skulduggery in the British Ministry of Defense, is a lanky, reclusive redhead, passionate only about her iconographic research. Although she shacks up with the odd academic, she has no interest in marriage or even socializing until she meets and almost instantly marries Tom Fitzgerald, an irresistible Ministry operative, whose murder occurs on the novel's first page. A long flashback acquaints the reader with the facts of their courtship, Tom's unexplained disappearances and his string of women friends whose continued possessiveness enrages Hero. Her suspicions aroused, she becomes increasingly convinced that Ministry efforts to find Tom's murderer are misdirected, and when Tom's old colleague Alistair Urquhart strides into her life, she sniffs out the truth. At this point, the story wanders. The reason for the murder is explained, but loose ends, which the reader seeks eagerly to tie up, lie all over the place. Perhaps more disappointing, the wonderfully quirky Hero turns into every man's love object. She is amusing, exciting, independent, but her creator lets her down. (Nov.)